Monday, October 26, 2009


Lately I've been on a "look at how things have changed" jag so at the risk of becoming Andy Rooney-esque I'm going to just keep going today with that theme. Today's topic is Halloween and how it has changed since we were kids. Come along and see if any of this is familiar.

COSTUMES: When we were kids we were either hobos or clowns or if our parents were rich and sprang for one of those lame plastic one-piece costumes we were superman or a princess. If our mother were handy with the sewing machine (and mine was) your repertoire could expand and I was even a pumpkin one year, my mother patiently sewing a many-gored costume she designed herself, but really, that kind of thing was rare. Now all the costumes are awesome. Even the cheapest costume at Target is of far superior quality to anything we had. Babies can be adorable fuzzy ladybugs and older kids can have elaborate horse and rider costumes all at affordable prices. This is all I'm sure due to global trade and I will try not to think about the fact that probably some Chinese waif was paid four or five grains of wheat to sew my kid's bunny suit.

CANDY: Man what was that crap they gave out when we were kids? Good N Plenty? Wax lips? Those god-awful peanut butter chewy things wrapped in orange or black waxed paper? And people were stingy too. None of this fistful of candy. You got one or two per kids. I remember SINGLE servings of Life Savers. I kid you not. Now my kids get handfuls of some of the best chocolate candy they make. Butterfingers, 100,000 bars, 3 Musketeers. The GOOD stuff. I suppose this is just another example of our super-sized mentality that has brought us our super-sized butts but I'll tell you one thing--it makes raiding the kids' candy bag a lot more fun for us.

DECORATIONS: I don't really need to tell you about the explosion of Halloween decorations do I? We all have a neighbor who now puts out more lights, hangs more stuff, and drapes more trees at Halloween than even the craziest of neighbors did at Christmas time when we were kids. Halloween decorations when we were kids? That meant putting out a pumpkin with a candle in it and a paper pumpkin on the doorway that you made at school (unless Ricky Soloway from down the street conned you out of your own paper pumpkin and his mom put it on THEIR door, not saying that ever happened to me or anything but it could and you might even be bitter about it 44 years later).

WEATHER: Now this changes every year of course especially since Al Gore got involved but since my youngest was born we have actually had many, many Halloweens that were fairly warm. Warm enough that you did not need a coat over your costume and that is weird because we live in Chicago. This NEVER happened when I was a kid. If you did not have long underwear AND a winter coat under or over your costume on Halloween you must have lived south of the Mason-Dixon line. And most of those nights it was raining too. Sideaways.

SAFETY: In this safety obsessed time when everyone is a stranger and we teach our kids to run screaming from them all it is hard to believe that at least for this one holiday our parents were even more paranoid than we are. That's because back in those days we were taught that there were crazy people who put razor blades in the candy. Our home town police even offered to x-ray the candy before you ate it. To my knowledge they did not once find a pin or a razor blade in the candy. I haven't even heard about this alleged scare in years. What does that mean? Did these crazy razor-blade toting, child-hating people all die off or did they all become strangers trying to lure our kids into cars with puppies? I have no idea.

These are some of the things that have changed over the years but for the most part, around here at least, Halloween looks like it did when I was a kid: Grandmas still open their front door and peer into the dark saying"Oh what a beautiful princess!" and "My what a scary monster!"; preschoolers to preteens still wander the streets past dark, safe for one night to cross the street without looking; and autumn leaves skitter at their feet pushed on by a wind that tells us snow is not far behind. Most of all it is still a magical night when every child gets to dress up and pretend to be anyone or anything he wants while filling up a pillow case with more candy than he could eat in a year.

Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 19, 2009


This is a lovely and respectful depiction of my co-workers

Hey fellow stay-at-home moms, good news, there's a new movie about our wacky, unfulfilled, stressful lives out there! It's called Motherhood and it stars Uma Thurman (who ironically, is a working mom in real life). In the article I read, the women who wrote, produced, and star in it discuss how they are uniquely qualified to make a movie like this because men just wouldn't know what it's like to be a stay-at-home mom.

But then it goes on to say that none of them are stay-at-home moms either. According to the New York Times article:

"All the women who created Motherhood have made different life choices from Eliza (the maind character), in that they have all stayed in the work force and risen to positions of power. 'For all of her angst the fact remains that Eliza has the option of not working,' said Rachel Cohen, head of production for the iDeal Partners Film Fund, one of the producers of the movie and a mother whose son is 5. 'I didn’t have that option, and if I did, I think I would still want to work'. They work, the creators agree, because they fear becoming their lead character, who has metaphorically lost her voice and is struggling to figure out what to say about the choice she has made."

Err, excuse me?

Is there any career more horribly depicted in our culture than stay-at-home moms? Always shown as petty (New Christine), over-sexed (Desperate Housewives), depressed (Mad Men), and/or harried (Everybody Loves Raymond).

Maybe used car salesmen. I guess I have never seen a movie or TV show that showed the upside and fulfillment of that job but it, like any other job, has its ups and downs, its joys and sorrows.

Just once I'd like to see a stay-at-home mom on TV or in the movies that looks just a little like the smart, funny, kind, extremely generous moms who I know. Moms who look great in a pair of jeans, garden like Martha Stewart, and offer to watch kids when you're sick. Women who were once lawyers, business execs, and teachers who left it behind to do endless loads of laundry in exchange for the privilige of being present for every first step, new tooth, and birthday party. Moms who clean up every drop of puke, pee, and blood from every one of their blessed offspring. Who read Green Eggs and Ham a thousand times and then read it again. Great women who run church fundraisers and make meals for sick neighbors. Good friends who always know when you need a cup of coffee to discuss the latest child worry , or a glass of wine to celebrate a small rite of passage. Amazing women who know how to turn hydrangaes pink, install a light fixture, and get mud out of white pants.

But I guess the truth just doesn't make good TV or movies.

In fact, now that I think of it, there a few groups of women who are as maligned in the movies as stay-at-home moms --it's working moms (who are always shown as torn between two worlds) and career women (who all allegedly lust after babies).

I guess the message from our culture is clear then: no matter what you're doing--you will be ridiculed.

So here's to all of us- moms and childless, working and staying home. We're all terriffic-- we just aren't funny movie characters.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


High school girls still do their nails!

Now that I have two kids in high school I'm pretty much an expert on the topic. Especially since I have both a boy and a girl there. Yes, two is definitely a statistically significant number when n is 2 and N is a bazillion. I learned that in statistics.

Anyhoo, here are a few observations in case you do not have a high schooler in your life and you would like to be in the know or a real "hep cat".

1. First of all, no one says real hep cat. I'm not sure anyone ever did.

2. Hugging: hugging is very big in high school. Girls hug boys, boys hug boys, but most of all girls hug girls. They hug good morning and good bye. They hug when they run into each other in stores. They hug because they can. We never hugged. We only hugged people we were dating or when we said goodbye to friends at the end of the summer. No, not even then. We were repressed and more than a little homo-phobic. They are not. They are like Europeans or something--all this touching and hand-holding and cheek-kissing. I think this is a great development because it's healthy to hug and be hugged. Yet in our culture after hugging, snuggling and petting our kids like kittens for the first 10 years of their life we drop them like lepers when they hit puberty. No wonder they're in need of a hug! All this innocent hugging they do, I would think, could even postpone the inevitable "advanced hugging" which is what kids who crave affection often get into.

3. Dating: no one goes out on a date. Not like we did. No one. I repeat, no one calls a girl on the house phone (yes, that's what they call that thing plugged into your kitchen wall) and says, "Hello Debbie, would you care to go to a movie with me on Friday?" (partly because no one is named Debbie anymore. What happened to all the Debbies?) No. High schoolers tend to travel in packs and then sort of peel off unofficially to do their he-ing and she-ing. So the dating looks more like a pack of antelope heading off to the watering hole. If anyone is "asking" anyone on a date, it will take place in the form of a text or a message on Facebook. "Do u wanna go to da movies?" which means dads can no longer terrorize potential suitors calling daughters and they will never have the chance to yell "Tell that kid not to honk his horn anymore," because kids don't honk their horns in the driveway anymore they text each other.

4. They are much, much more connected than we were: With the aid of texting and "social media" (that means Facebook and MySpace) the kids all know where everyone is at any moment. And what they are doing. All the time. That's why as you drive to grandma and grandpa's for Christmas you will know that Maggie is on her way to see her grandparents in Ohio and Sam is going out to the movies with a bunch of friends, and Michael is skiing in Colorado. I kind of like this too. Somehow it takes away a little of the sting of having to spend long periods of time with your own family (don't pretend you don't remember that feeling.)

5. They are better friends than we were: Yes, I have to say that despite my concern that all this electronic communicating would result in the death of verbal communication and the decline of western society in general it doesn't seem to be the case. In fact, the opposite seems to have occurred. With all this connecting it is even easier to check on a sick friend, help a friend who forgot her homework, plot to decorate a locker for a birthday, and make plans to watch a friend at a swim meet. These things just lend themselves to a casual text whereas several separate phone calls might be just enough of an obstacle to pass on the whole thing.

6. They "joke" in electronic ways and they are dang funny: Have you been "rick roll'd"? Well that's what happens when a friend sends you an email with a link that might say "check out this video it's so cool funnycats dancing" But when you click on it (and I hope you will) you get transferred to a YouTube video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up" which is quite possibly the most atrocious, cheesey, music video ever made. They pass along YouTube videos and jokes just like your friends do but theirs tend to be a little more culturally relevant than those ladies from the 30's doing that freaky circus barn dance.

7. Some things never change: Even though a lot of things have changed a lot of things haven't. There are still burnouts, now called "emo", and jocks and cheerleaders and the usual assortment of nerds --drama, band, chess club. And even though a lot of the lingo has changed a lot of it hasn't. Just the other day the kids were discussing a girl in their school who dresses inappropriately. Too short, too tight, too much. You get the idea. Atticus said, "We have a name for girls like that." I leaned in close, eager to hear the latest slang for "girls like that". "Really?" I asked, "What is it?" He knows I fancy myself a student of current slang and he knows he is one of the few translators that I have. So he grinned as he shared it with me, "Whore."

Friday, October 09, 2009


It's homecoming weekend here in Glenview! The whole thing--pep rallies, parade, dance. Oh, yeah and I think there's a football game too. As I scoot around town I can see reminders of the big weekend everywhere: village workers hanging high school banners on street poles; a line at the florist as the moms order corsages/boutonnieres; another line at the dry-cleaners while girls wait to have hems pinned for alterations; and temporary signs around town warning us that Glenview Road will be closed for two hours on Saturday for the parade.

This has of course got me reminiscing about my own homecoming experiences. In my four years I went to two of the dances. I would have loved to have gone to all four but I was only asked to two and back in the olden days you could not go to a dance unless a boy asked you . Even when I did go, it was not with a boyfriend or one of the boys I had a crush on --in both cases I went with nice friends who asked me as a sort of sympathy gesture who probably would have liked to go with someone else too but did not have the nerve to ask. I was just so grateful to be asked, to be allowed to take part of the magical evening, to have a ticket in the form of a boy. The other two years I went to a movie with some girlfriends and sulked. (It's hard not to when your peers are all dressed up in their Gunne Saks going to Mountain Jacks for dinner and you're not.)

Well, I am very happy to report that those days of waiting for a boy to say the word to go to the dance are over. Yes, in case you do not have a kid in high school now (or recently) you may not know that this archaic custom is pretty much gone. To be sure, most of the kids attending the big dance do have a date--but many, many do not. That's right, this generation has figured out something that is so obvious that I cannot believe we did not see it right before our eyes. If you want to go to the dance, grab some friends and go!

Which is why tomorrow, though neither one has an official date, both my kids will be going to the homecoming dance. Grace (a freshman) will get all dolled up, meet her friends for pictures, dinner, the dance and a sleepover. They will look great because as she recently told me when I said boys don't care if her shoes match her dress, "We don't dress up for the boys. We dress up for the girls." Wow. It took me decades to figure that one out. Atticus (a sophomore) will be hanging with his posse made up mostly of couples but a few going stag. They will also go to dinner, the dance, then go play broomball, have a sleepover, and end up at Great America on Sunday.

If they were following the old rules of our day they would miss all of that.

So here's to the young generation. They have brought us texting and YouTube and now, much more importantly they have shown us that the world doesn't need a stinkin' date to go to the homecoming dance and I call that progress.

I'll end this with a special thanks to Mark and Neil, my sympathy-friend-dates. Thanks for the ticket in. It was a blast.

Monday, October 05, 2009

47, 48, 49 OBLIVION

My parents: do they look demographically obsolete to you?

They just said on the radio that the new H1N1 vaccination is being recommended to everyone between the ages of 2-49. And this morning I read in my beloved New York Times that The Big Bang Theory does well in the coveted 18-49 year old viewing demographic. And just now when I took a parenting magazine survey and they asked my age the final two categories were 45-49, 50 and older.

So what, you might ask? Well, I happen to be 49 and now realize I am on the verge of demographic obsolesence. This comes as a great surprise to me and perhaps even more so to my parents in their 70's and my grandmother who is 94. Really? Really, America you decide that anyone over 49 is no longer demographically significant? Soon you will no longer waste flu vaccines on me or care what I'm watching on TV or how I parent my kids?

This is especially funny to me when I consider that based on family history I will probably live another 49 years and will be watching more and more TV as I age AND that I have a whole lot more discretionary income than I did when I was 18. But do advertisers care what I watch? Well, yes, they do for another eight months but then it will be all, "Oh, you're 50 so you can't be cool anymore and we don't care if you watch Glee and MadMen because you're old."

Fifty? When did fifty signal the end of life? I mean, when since the medieval times when we all had babies at 12 and lost our teeth at 30 and died at 40, did 50 mean old? Whatever happened to that line "Merry Christmas to kids from 1 to 92" (I often wonder what my grandma thinks when she hears that line. I guess she has to acknowledge she is no longer a kid).

It is not fun to have to check the last box on a survey especially when it comes to age. Though, come to think of it, it is not fun to have to check the last box for a few things like marital status: (single, married, divorced, seeing someone, it's complicated, please mom get off my back, married in some states but not most).

With other categories it might be fun to check the last box say the one for educational level (high school, some college, college, some post-grad, graduate degree, PhD, good god are you EVER going to stop going to school?) or the income level boxes (0-$20,000 a year, $25,000-$40,000, $40,000-$65,000, $65,000-$100,000, $100,000 to more than anyone really needs).

It's getting so I am a little embarrassed to have to check that age box at all. Sometimes when I'm filling out forms in the doctor's office, I let my hand hover near the top of the list in case anyone is watching (which reminds me of the game we used to play at University of Michigan when we'd go see our grades posted--since they posted them in the order from 4.0 to 0.0 with our student ID number next to them we would all tilt our heads up as if looking at the top of the list while our eyes scanned down the list until we finally came to our actual grade--I nearly gave my eyes a hernia trying to keep my head up but see my calc grade).

Anyhoo, I am digressing. Back to the old age thing. I think it is kind of weird that Letterman who is 62 and Leno who is 59 are chasing after the 18-49 year old viewers (though not as weird as chasing after that age group in the office--bah-ding-bang!).

Maybe I'll write to the TV station and complain about this age-ism. But I better hurry because in eight months my letter will just end up in the "50 and over" pile.